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Yes, I was there. Through the most unlikely cosmic hiccup, my name
was drawn in the Boston lottery. I ran the 100th not because I possessed
the talent, but because I had the audacity to put my name on a postcard.
Destiny, it seems, has a sense of humor.
Destiny also has a taste for irony and melodrama. I found out that
my name had been selected on October 10, two days after the Fox
Cities Marathon. Two days after my wife and running partner had
missed qualifying at Fox Cities, in part because of her concern
for my injury.
Never was it more true than for the 100th Boston that the miracle
was not in finishing, but in having the courage to start. That’s
because in December that same rebellious knee forced me out of the
Rocket City Marathon at mile 15. And in January, it was that same
knee that the good Dr. Jordan injected with a burning shot of cortisone,
not so that I could run or waddle, but so that I could simply walk.
The emotional dichotomy was nearly paralyzing. Knowing that this
would very likely be my only Boston meant walking a tightrope of
unbridled excitement and abject terror. The elation of going was
always offset by the ever-present knee brace, the desire to run
tempered by the need to heal, and the joy of the dream clouded by
the painful reality.
But go I did. Still uncertain of my right to be there, I waded tentatively
into the torrent of festivities and rituals that was Boston 100.
I moved anonymously through the crowds at the expo, fearing that
the real runners would recognize this impostor-this penguin
on a pilgrimage-in their midst.
The effect of Boston 100 was cumulative. Each day brought new enlightenment,
new awareness. Sitting in a room with former champions, with the
men and women who have come to define the Boston Marathon, I discovered
that I share something with these runners that transcends our finishing
The heroes of the past are, it turns out, quite ordinary people.
It’s just that they have accomplished extraordinary deeds.
They have run their races, set new standards and opened previously
unopened doors. Yet, above it all, they are first and foremost runners.
Their passion for the sport, for the joy of running, is indistinguishable
from the passion of those who cross the finish line hours behind
Standing in the "B Open" corral on a sun-drenched Monday
morning, I found myself surrounded by people who were just as possessed
by the will to test their physical and emotional limits as even
the most talented of the elite runners. The men and women, young
and old, surrounding me each brought to bear all the courage they
could muster against this daunting challenge called Boston. They
were each champions in their own way.
And somehow the marvelous crowds knew that. Instinctively or through
experience, the spectators-at Wellesley College, on Heartbreak
Hill, along Boylston-knew that we needed them at least as
much as those who had breezed by hours before. They knew what I
was just beginning to learn. They knew that in the final analysis,
Boston 100 came down to each person conquering the fears and insecurities
that might sabotage their goal-whether that goal was to be
the outright winner or, a much more personal victory, simply to
complete the course.
My admiration for the elite runners is deeper now. They are sublime
athletes. My admiration for all the other runners is deeper as well.
I understand now the passion to qualify and the will to train. But
Boston 100 was, in the end, what all races are. Ordinary people
accomplishing extraordinary deeds.
History was made on April 15, 1996. Five hours, 32 minutes and 26
seconds after I crossed the starting line, I finished. But my name
will not be among those remembered. A slow, middle-aged man will
not even be a footnote in the story of the 100th Boston Marathon.
And yet, in my own private history book, I will devote an entire
chapter to this race. If only for myself, I will celebrate all the
miles to Boston, not just the final 26.2.
Waddle on, friends.
Thought of the Day
"I was the next to last finisher, but I had won the most important
race, the race against myself."
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